Microsoft Serves Up Near-Final Release Preview of Windows 8 in Hope of Getting PCs on Shelves by the Holidays
A few days ahead of schedule, Microsoft on Thursday issued its near-final “release preview” version of Windows 8.
The company had promised the updated test version would come by the first week in June. Its arrival was not much of a surprise given that Redmond accidentally posted about the release on Wednesday, though the blog was quickly pulled.
The software is expected to debut in time to ship on PCs sold this holiday season, but Microsoft had yet to confirm that publicly. Windows boss Steven Sinofsky stopped short of promising that, but stated on Thursday that this is indeed the goal.
“Ultimately, our partners will determine when their PCs are available in market,” Sinofsky said in a blog post. “If the feedback and telemetry on Windows 8 and Windows RT match our expectations, then we will enter the final phases of the RTM process in about 2 months. If we are successful in that, then we are tracking to our shared goal of having PCs with Windows 8 and Windows RT available for the holidays.”
Windows 8 represents a huge bet for Microsoft, which is shifting to a new interface, a new type of application as well as for the first time supporting both traditional PC processors from Intel and AMD and the type of ARM processors used in phones and tablets and made by Qualcomm, Nvidia and Texas Instruments.
Microsoft is also making other changes, including the addition of a built-in Windows Store for selling apps. The move is a break from past methods of distributing Windows software but in line with how software is sold on Android, the Mac and iOS.
Though not earth-shattering, there are a number of key changes in this latest test version. The biggest of these is probably the inclusion of limited Flash support in the new-style Metro version of Internet Explorer. Microsoft had previously said that only the classic “desktop” version of the browser would support Flash. The Metro browser still won’t support other plugins.
The new update also adds Bing apps for travel, news and sports, as well as updates to the mail, photos and people apps. Multi-monitor support is also better, Microsoft said.
Additionally, Microsoft confirmed the upgrade program for those buying Windows 7 PCs in the coming months. The company said that people buying such machines starting June 2 will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 for $15. The offer applies in 131 countries, including the U.S. and Canada.